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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

On Apathy and Macalester's Revenue Deficit

By Jens Tamang

Driving through Ohio, on my way back to St. Paul from a weekend trip in Philadelphia, my boyfriend’s car began to smoke beneath the hood. After pulling off to the side of the road, a policeman approached us and said that we had to push our car further off to the side. While there was nothing particularly aggressive about the way the policeman did this, there was something about the act of pushing a car while he stood over me that was unnerving. I could not shake the feeling that I had been taken advantage of before The Law.I doubt there are many people at Macalester for whom this feeling is unfamiliar. Whether we are toted off to detox after a night of heavy drinking, caught speeding, or arrested for obstructing traffic (i.e. what some might call “protesting”) I have yet to meet a student whose interactions with the police have been largely pleasant or tame as said interactions might have been.

In one way, one can write this knee-jerk reaction off, write it off petty fear of an oppressive power that does not exist. In another way, the fact that the mere presence of a policeman can make the body writhe is indicative of a greater problem of reacting to forces that are beyond us.

Policemen so deeply cherish their position as protectors of the public that they have occasionally been known to beat to death those individuals who have attempted to get between them and their status. We cannot-or at least I cannot-have any interaction with them without the unpleasant reminder of this history. This history debilitates. It destroys the ability to express the degree to which one is distressed. It turns distress into nervous ticks, snowballing in one’s behavior until the subject becomes a babbling mess whose yapping then becomes a probable cause.

Of course there is an opposite reaction: “my car is broken and this nice police officer has come to assist me.” Instead of a response to the policeman as appendage of oppression, this positive reaction points towards the conception of the policeman as that fat and smiling D.A.R.E. officer, the one who inundates school children into the cultural capital of abstaining from drugs (as if such a thing existed).

But I digress.

“I was pulled over and it was awful” can be uttered in the same breath as “I was pulled over and it was, like, whatever.” Likewise, one can say “the Twins lost and I’m crushed” just as someone could say “it’s only baseball.”

But when the Twins loose to the Yankees, the defeat the fan feels is not merely about baseball but about the defeat of “the little guy.” And when he throws his hands in the air to say “look at that sucker run” he is, in effect, saying “praise the Lord, I’ve been redeemed.”

In light of last week’s article in the Mac Weekly outlining the glum shape of our school’s budget, I was hard-pressed to understand my reaction. It was apathetic. But as I probed my peers I seemed not to be alone. It was as if we seemed to say “Macalester’s out of money and I have no clue what that means to me.”

When David Wheaton, vice president of administration and finance, says that Macalester’s revenue, in as short a time as three years, may not be enough to meet its expenses, the student ought to be alarmed. And then we are told that (1) decrease in revenue is an “industry-wide phenomenon,” (2) the endowment itself will increase, and (3) that the college is currently in “fiscally sound condition,” such that it is too early to start considering specific cuts or fees.

Be alarmed, the news seems to say, despite the fact that everything will be alright. I’m sure Wheaton will notify us once the budget deficit impinges on our major freedoms, such vital rights like free printing.

We are told the budget is in crisis, then we are told the endowment will be fine. We are told that we ought to be invested in Macalester’s future, and the we are told not to worry our pretty-little-selves. No wonder we all feel so apathetic.

Anyone who feels passionately anything that is of any urgency will understand apathy as the most peculiar of phenomena. It’s linked closely to the nervousness felt in the presence of the law, or the defeat the fan feels when the Twins loose their Big Game. It is that feeling of being stuck between one’s self and a power that is beyond that self.

If the administration wants us to worry about the endowment, it should say so, even if such a fear is false. Otherwise, no one has any right to be surprised at our “apathy.” We invest, we divest, but we cannot do both.

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